By Sami Zaptia.
London, 4 March 2019:
Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) has lifted the force majeure status on the Sharara oilfield following the removal of what it called an armed militia which was responsible for its blockade and which led to a production loss of US$ 1.8 billion.
The NOC said that the Sharara operating company, Akakus, has received written assurance from the Libyan National Army’s Brigadier General Al Rifi Kennah Ahmed Ali, Commander of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) unit, that all individuals subject to the recent Attorney General’s arrest warrant have been removed from the field and will not be readmitted to the site.
It will be noted that the Attorney General issued an arrest warrant for 26 members of the Fezzan Anger Movement who blockaded Sharara, protesting against what they considered to be genuine grievances.
The NOC said they were extortionist armed militias and presented evidence seeking their arrest.
The NOC said that additional security measures for on-site staff are being implemented, with perimeter security and safe ‘green zones’ a priority.
The NOC’s chairman, Mustafa Sanalla, said the “NOC has received assurances that site security has been restored, verified by our own inspection team, enabling staff to return to work. This costly episode highlights the importance of NOC remaining independent and free from extortion and armed incursion.”
The NOC reiterated the importance of having air transport and being able to supply of the field, including the possibility of medical evacuation. It thereby called for the unilateral removal of the southern no-fly zone imposed by the Khalifa Hafter-led Libyan National Army (LNA) as part of its recent southern military campaign.
Sanalla said that “Never again should an armed group be allowed to threaten NOC workers and hold the country to ransom. A safe and secure working environment is imperative to allow the oil to flow for the benefit of all Libyans”.
The NOC said that production is expected to resume within the next few hours, with regular output to be reached over the coming days. Plans are also in place to repair the 20,000 barrels per day lost production capacity destroyed by looting and vandalism during the blockade, the NOC added.
UNSMIL welcomed the NOC’s decision to lift the force majeure and the immediate return of production at Sharara.
It emphasized the need for the protection of national facilities and the ensuring of a safe environment for all staff for the benefit of the Libyan people.
It will be recalled that the Fezzan Anger Movement and a local unit of the Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG) had forced the shutdown of Sharara in early December 2018.
This forced the NOC to declare a state of force majeure on 18 December. The NOC refused to lift the force majeure even after Hafter’s LNA took control of the oilfield and and all the surrounding areas.
It even refused to lift the force majeure after last week’s Abu Dhabi Serraj-Hafter meeting – until staff safety was assured to its own satisfaction.